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Massive Fire Raging on New Jersey Boardwalk; Colorado Floods Kill Three, One Missing; Russia to the Rescue?; Montana Bride Accused of Murdering Husband Is Out of Jail

Aired September 12, 2013 - 20:00   ET



Tonight, breaking news on two fronts: flood water still rising and only on 360, the hero who rushed straight into them describing his role in a life-saving rescue.

Also, fire sweeps a Jersey shore town that is still reeling from Sandy that just rebuilt, in fact.

And later, if you got teenagers, you need to know about the wave of synthetic drugs sweeping across the country and killing some kids.

We begin with breaking news on the Jersey Shore tonight. A massive fire still burning right now as we speak on the boardwalk in the resort town of Seaside Heights. You can see high winds are fanning the flames that begun in a frozen custard shop. To non-New Jerseyans, an ice cream stand. It spread involving at least 19 buildings bringing fire crews from all around the area.

Making it all doubly tragic, this is the same area that took such a heavy beating from Superstorm Sandy. It was rebuilding. The boardwalk had just reopened. The boardwalk that's burning tonight was new. Now it's being torn up to try and stop the flames from spreading.

Margaret Connelly is on the scene tonight and joins us now.

What's the latest on the fire?

MARGARET CONNELLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the boardwalk that survived Hurricane Sandy just around this time last year is engulfed in flames. If you look behind me, there are about 400 firefighters right now that are trying to fight this fire. The winds are not helping. This reached to be a six-alarm fire. It started around 2:30 this afternoon. It started at Kohrs Custard Shop as you said. Twenty businesses were affected and Governor Christie right now is on the scene -- Anderson.

COOPER: Do we know what caused the fire at this custard shop?

CONNELLY: Yes, that is the one big question that the officials are not even going to speculate on. They say they don't know and they won't give us any answers. We do know that there have been no major injuries. The only injuries so far are with the firefighters and it's from heat exhaustion -- Anderson.

COOPER: And it seems like this fire has just moved incredibly fast. I mean, the fact that it was able to spread so quickly and has now engulfed such a large area.

CONNELLY: Yes, that's right. The winds have picked up. We could see this fire from six -- about 20 minutes away from here and we can just see the fire going down this path of the boardwalk. We did hear from Governor Christie that there may be rain tonight and that could help them contain this -- Anderson.

COOPER: And the boardwalk, as we said, reopened this summer after being damaged by Sandy. It's got to be so devastating for the community. What have people there been telling you?

CONNELLY: Yes, it's really emotional here. We talked with a woman that was in one of the bars when all of the smoke came. She said it's the day after 9/11. She was already on edge. She fled from that area and she also has her family members that are trying to put out these flames.

There are also a lot of people that are standing by watching their businesses go down in flames. So it is a very, very sad situation. Governor Christie came out here, he addressed the crowd and here is a little bit more of what he had to say.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I know how you feel. I can only imagine how the residents and business owners in this area are feeling. My heart goes out to them. That's why I'm here to make sure that every resource is brought to bear to contain this problem and listen, this is us, so we're -- you know, as soon as this is over, we'll pick ourselves up, we'll dust ourselves off and we'll get back to work.


CONNELLY: Now Governor Christie also said that this is an unthinkable situation and he also advised people to not come down to this boardwalk -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Obviously good advice there.

Margaret Connelly, appreciate the update.

With us now by phone is Bill Akers, mayor of Seaside Heights, New Jersey.

Mr. Mayor, I'm so sorry we're talking under these circumstances. At this point, do you have a sense of just how big of a fire this is? How many structures have been destroyed?

BILL AKERS, MAYOR OF SEASIDE HEIGHTS (via phone): I think right now we're probably -- we're somewhere around 30 buildings. It's covering an eight-block area from Stockton Avenue to Lincoln Avenue where they put the break in. And thank God that it's holding. About 7:45 they said that they have it contained to the area, to the A block area, and I think we'll be OK from there.

COOPER: Did any of these buildings have sprinklers or anything like that? Because it just seems to have moved incredibly fast and spread so wide.

AKERS: Yes, a few of the buildings do and of course, they're going to fair a little better. But if you power a boardwalk set up, it's -- all the buildings are connected. So the fire, it's very easy for it to jump from one to the other and then it's like a tunnel as it's going down moving the boardwalk from south to north. It's just like a wind tunnel going down there and just carried it. And the embers were flying about hundreds of yards on to other buildings. So it was getting ahead of where the first break was, finally it just stopped at Lincoln Avenue.

COOPER: And, I mean, obviously, it just breaks your heart knowing, you know, the trauma this community suffered during Hurricane Sandy. How long ago was it that this area reopened, was rebuilt?

AKERS: We got -- the boardwalk itself did get opened by Memorial Day weekend, but a lot of businesses were bringing up the (INAUDIBLE), had themselves in position to -- I think we were fully functional by July and so people got to enjoy what they could of a summer that was somewhat awful, and we were looking forward to our soldier season here, you know, hoping the people that did make the effort to rebuild and got themselves in a position to be open, and now that's all in jeopardy here, too.

So we'll take -- you know, we'll evaluate everything tomorrow morning in the light of day. We'll see where we're at. The main thing is now we get -- everything out. Just the areas (INAUDIBLE). And we roll out the specs that we -- weren't too long ago that we put out the bid. We have all the specifications that were already done. We'll put them out again and we'll start all over again.

COOPER: So you have no doubt you're going to rebuild? This area will come back?

AKERS: No, there is no doubt at all. You can't not have it. I know it's been just -- seems like it has been a long, hard year, but I can't imagine how hard it would be without this boardwalk. We have to do it.

COOPER: It's just -- it's so unfair and again, my best to you and to everybody who's fighting this fire right now and our thoughts and our prayers are with everybody in that community.

Thank you -- very much, Mr. Mayor.

AKERS: Thank you, sir.

COOPER: We -- we've got more breaking news tonight. Raging and rising waters out west. The images we've been watching all day are stunning. Rising higher and faster than they have seen in centuries in some places. Officials in one Colorado town calling it a 500-year flood, the worst of it in and around the city of Boulder. More than a half a foot of rain sending a 20-foot wall of water down a mountain canyon nearby.

North of there a town of 2,000 completely cut off. Homes collapsing, dams threatened, roads washed away, including one about 12 miles southeast of Boulder, the scene of a breathtaking rescue.

The story from Anna Cabrera.


ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vicious floodwaters wash away a road near Lafayette, Colorado, and rescuers zero in on one flipped over vehicle they believe has a survivor inside.

Minutes seem like hours as they secure lines to the car. The goal, flip it over and save whoever is in there. Finally the submerged car is turned on its side and rescuers have a chance to break a window and look inside. To the relief of the entire rescue team and to people across the country watching this unfold on live TV, a survivor appears, but he's not safe yet.

As the man puts on a life vest, his car falls again, this time without a window to seal off the floodwater.

Is there an air pocket in the car? Precious seconds tick by as the water rushes into the vehicle. Then rescuer Robert Williams leaves the safety of his own raft to free the man and finally he makes it to shore.

Others wouldn't be as fortunate. The floods are blamed for at least three deaths in Colorado and officials are bracing for that number to rise.

SHERIFF JOE PELLE, BOULDER COUNTY, COLORADO: This was a devastating overnight storm in the dark, and I anticipate that as the day goes on, we are likely to find other people who are the victims of this storm. I hope and pray that's not true.

CABRERA: Authorities began their rescues Wednesday night, including this family and their dog stranded on their balcony in Boulder.

The storm at times dumped an inch of rain an hour. Boulder Creek which runs through here at the University of Colorado flowed at 16 times its normal rate.

RYAN COLLA, STUDENT, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER: How high the creek was, how fast it was, how muddy it was and dangerous it was, it freaked us out.

CABRERA: Throughout the day, officials urged residents to stay inside, warning the floodwaters are far more dangerous than they appear.

(On camera): That person can very easily just go floating down this river like we're seeing tons of debris because it is fast moving.

(Voice-over): Across the state water damaged or overflowed dams, roads became impassable from water or mudslides, and homes collapsed. Here, the tiny town of lions was cut off completely by what local officials describe as a 500-year flood. Residents have been told they could be on their own for up to three days.

Rain continued throughout the day and could get worse, for a second night, Colorado battles darkness, flood waters and a race against time to rescue its residents.


COOPER: That water is so fast and so powerful.

Ana Cabrera joins me now live from Boulder.

So what's the latest from that area? It's still raining. Is the water still rising?

CABRERA: It is just pouring out here right now, Anderson. The ground so saturated, there is nowhere for the water to go. And keep in mind some of these areas have had many fires in the past, devastating fires so those burn scars are also fueling some of the flooding and the debris that's coming down.

Huge sticks like this, huge rocks. We're in the middle of one of the main drags through the city of Boulder and you can see several inches of water just racing over the roadway. The forecast calls for rain to continue at least for the next 24 hours. So that means flash flooding could remain a threat for Boulder County and much of the state, really. This is a state-wide issue tonight which is why the Governor John Hickenlooper has issued a disaster declaration -- Anderson.

COOPER: You were saying that law enforcement told people they could be on their own for several days. I mean, are you hearing from authorities? Do they feel like they have a sort of handle on the general situation of where the worst flooding is?

CABRERA: I think authorities are hopeful, Anderson. They say it's sort of an all-hands-on-deck here within the state. We also know the National Guard has arrived and is assisting in some of the rescues that they're still trying to make, trying to get to those people who are trapped behind walls of debris and feet of water still. They have said that governors from surrounding states are pledging to do everything they can to help.

So there is a lot of help here, but the problem remains some physical barriers to try to get to those people who need the most help right now. Three people confirmed dead, but again, the sheriff of Boulder County said that number could still go up because they still haven't reached all the people who they know need help -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. To think all this happened in the darkness, I mean, just how terrifying that must be when all of a sudden that water comes and it's completely blacked out.

Ana Cabrera, appreciate the update.

Now one of the men you saw in the middle of that rescue. His name is Lt. Rob Williams, he's a Colorado's North Metro Fire Rescue District. I spoke with him just a short time ago.


COOPER: Rob, watching you rescue that man, it's just incredible. Can you talk us through what happened?

LT. ROB WILLIAMS, NORTH METRO FIRE RESCUE: Well, we responded to a couple of vehicles the road washed out at that point under a culvert and three vehicles had driven off about a 10 to 15-foot embankment down into a -- which normally is a dry creek but because all the rain had flash flooded. So one victim was able to climb out on his own and we were able to help pull out two other victims, one out of a partially submerged vehicle and another one out of a fully submerged vehicle.

COOPER: We're looking at you approaching this partially submerged vehicle that is on its side. I mean it looks like that car could have swept right into you.

WILLIAMS: Yes, sir, it was -- it was pretty stable and we had looked at it and knew it wasn't going to move too much. And so we wanted to come from the bottom and use the calm water from behind it to get up on top of it and secure it to a tow truck so we could pull it up on its side and break the window and help pull the victim out of there.

COOPER: How long had that -- had that man been in the vehicle, in the water?

WILLIAMS: It was probably about an hour or maybe even a little bit more. So when we -- when I crawled up on top of the vehicle to hook the cable from the tow truck, I could hear some kind of tapping and yelling in there. So we knew we had a live victim in there and we wanted to be able to get him out as quick as we could.

COOPER: That was the first indication you had that there was actually a person alive in there?

WILLIAMS: It was, yes. These are actually three gentlemen who work together and the first victim that we pulled out knew who was driving the other car but he didn't know how many people were in the car with him. They were all going to work following each other and they drove in the culvert. So we knew we had one victim in there and we'd hoped for the best and thankfully we were able to get him out in enough time.

COOPER: How long does somebody have just in terms of air supply or even, you know, hypothermia when they're trapped in a car like that in water? I imagine, you know, time was of the essence. WILLIAMS: Yes. Absolutely time is of the essence and it's something we think about quite a bit. And we know that any type of rescue like that is just going to take time for us to do it safely and not create ourselves as a victim but also take the necessary risks to get him out in a timely matter. So fortunately, their windows were up and they had a good air pocket in the vehicles, and we were able to go over to it and break the window and get them out.

COOPER: What -- I mean, was the person -- obviously you're communicating with the person. You passed them a vest. Were they panicking? What -- what kind of shape were they in?

WILLIAMS: The first gentleman they were able to, he was anxious to get out of there obviously and he was -- he was more with it than the second gentleman. The second gentleman was pretty hypothermic and definitely pretty weak from just having to -- I think he was having to fight a little bit harder to get -- to get air as his car was fully upside down.

COOPER: Have you ever seen anything like this flood before? I've heard some people kind refer to it as the kind of flood that maybe happens once every couple of hundred years.

WILLIAMS: Yes, I mean, it's not something that we see every day for sure. It's something that we don't see as often, so we have to train for it more often to make sure they we're ready when it actually happens.

COOPER: Well, it's incredible what you did and, as I said, your whole team is just remarkable.

Rob, thank you so much. Rob Williams.

WILLIAMS: Thank you so much for having me.


COOPER: It's so amazing what he did.

Let us know what you think. You can follow me on Twitter @andersoncooper.

There's a lot more happening tonight including late developments in those talks over disarming Syria.

Also the wife accused of pushing her husband off a cliff. Well, she's back on the streets. We'll tell you why.

And stay with us because those are live pictures you're looking at. Fire tearing through the Jersey boardwalk in Seaside Park. We're watching that closely this entire hour. We're going to bring you updates throughout the program.


COOPER: Hey, welcome back, a whole string of late developments in the showdown with Syria. The dictator Bashar al-Assad today saying he would formally apply for membership in the International Chemical Weapons Convention. Now the treaty bans the production, use and stockpiling of such weapons. So that sounds like a positive development. He also endorsed Russia's plan for eliminating his chemical arsenal.

The Russian foreign minister meeting today with Secretary of State Kerry in Geneva. The two sides are still divided whether to leave open the option of using force if Syria reneges on a deal. Secretary Kerry saying their joint effort is not a game outlining kind of -- what kind of agreement he's seeking.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: It has to be real. It has to be comprehensive. It has to be verifiable. It has to be credible. It has to be timely and implemented in a timely fashion. And finally, there ought to be consequences if it doesn't take place.


COOPER: Well, meantime, the leader of the Free Syrian Army says the Assad regime is already playing games.


GEN. SALIM IDRISS, CHIEF OF STAFF, FREE SYRIAN ARMY: Today we have information that the regime began to move chemical material and chemical weapons to Lebanon and to Iraq.


COOPER: Denying that allegations.

A lot to talk about. Jim Sciutto joins us now from Geneva.

So the meeting today, what do we know about them? How did they go, Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, you have two levels of meetings. You have Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov, then you have the working group meetings, the chemical weapons experts, the military experts, both of those equally important.

Arguably the working level more important because the real goal of these talks is to come out with a framework for how you collect Syria's weapons, catalog them and then destroy them. That's really what they're after here and that's what even Secretary Kerry says is the test of whether these talks are a success.

It's early stages. They're just beginning to address these issues here. And we've already see some of the differences exposed. You mentioned one on the use of force, another one, Secretary Kerry mentioned this in his first public comments, that Bashar Assad says he believes he has 30 days before he has to catalog his chemical weapons, that that would be standard.

Secretary Kerry says there is nothing standard about these talks. American expectations are for a much quicker delivery and much quicker action moving forward.

COOPER: Also, Assad has given an interview, I believe, to Russian media saying that not only does the threat of force have to be off the table but that arming or supplying of rebels can no longer be continued, which is clearly, A, a new development, a new demand by the Syrian regime, and one that's going to cause a huge amount of problems given what the Obama administration is clearly doing.

You know, CNN, "Washington Post", yesterday reporting, the CIA has actually now begun arming the rebel movements.

SCIUTTO: Right, well, President Assad is not going to get that. On the issue of force, this is something that the U.S. and the Russians disagree on. And it's something that came out the very first moment we saw Lavrov and Kerry standing together. And it's an issue that might be left for a later day.

President Obama is not going to give up his right -- reserving his right to use force but the Russians unlikely to sign on to an agreement here that has that as a trigger. And they've set their bar relatively low here for what the goals of these talks are. They're looking for a framework for doing those three things -- cataloging the chemical weapons, collecting them somewhere and destroying them, and just a framework, something they can go back to Washington, go back to European capitals and elsewhere, as a way forward.

That issue of the use of force is something that's probably going to be left for a later day -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jim Sciutto, appreciate the update.

Let's drill down deeper now to the politics, the practicalities of all this. I want to bring in CNN analyst David Kay, former chief U.S. weapons inspector after we went into Iraq. Currently he sits on the State Department's International Security Advisory Board. He's an expert in this kind of stuff. Also senior political analyst David Gergen.

David Kay, let me start with you. When you hear General Idriss saying Assad might already be transferring his chemical weapons out of Syria to Lebanon and to Iraq, how big a cause for concern is that?

I mean, I'm not sure how much validity we should put into the statements of that general, but what do you make of it?

DAVID KAY, CNN ANALYST: Well, in general, I'm dubious of it. The stockpile is so large that it will be physically impossible to move a significant amount, particularly without detection. I must say the one aspect of that that is of concern is movement not to Iraq but movement to Lebanon closer to the Hezbollah major force structure. I can tell you the people who are really concerned about that tonight will be the Israelis. COOPER: And there's been a lot of talk today about the Pentagon telling CNN back in February that 75,000 troops would be needed to neutralize the chemical weapons stockpile. That estimate, I mean, was given obviously long before this proposal was even on the table when cooperation from Syria wasn't even a possibility. Would it take 75,000 troops?

KAY: Well, if you did it in a hostile environment without any cooperation, without any cease-fire, perhaps. I suspect that estimate flows from a desire not to be involved in it. And, you know, it's -- I'm not sure that that is realistic at all.

I can tell you that unless you do it in an environment where there is a cease-fire and there is cooperation from the Syrians and I hope from the rebels, as well, this is very, very close to impossible.

COOPER: Well, getting a cease-fire is a whole other problem.

David, I mean, it's -- you know, when you hear words like framework, it's sort of diplomatic talk. How does this actually work? What is -- how would this process work? It doesn't seem like there is going to be a deal within a day or two. They just have this framework. How long can this negotiation go on?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: At best, they will get it wrapped up maybe Saturday or early next week. It's got to go back to the U.N. You've got to get Assad on board, you've got to get countries organized. You might see something come out of the U.N. next week.

COOPER: And how serious is it that Assad is already saying, well, not only do -- does the threat of force have to be off the table, which seems to be a nonstarter for the U.S., but that the U.S. can't be arming the rebels?

GERGEN: Well, I think it is -- I think those are serious objections, I mean, certainly throwing a monkey wrench into this whole thing. Now one presumes, I think a lot of American diplomats will presume that the Russians can control it and are basically ordering to do whatever they need to have done. After all, at the end of the day, now Russia is the big player here and Syria and we'll all have to take our queues off that.

But it looks like the Russians want to drive to a deal, but is it a good deal or not? That's the big question. And if the deal falls apart, can the president get authorization from this Congress?

COOPER: Right. And -- or do you think there is a chance that if the deal did fall apart, that he would just go to the American people and say look, we tried all we can, and I'm going forward without the authorization of Congress?

GERGEN: I think there's a possibility. That's what Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, argued on CNN a couple of nights ago. And I think there is some support for that but basically, Anderson, that will cause a storm in the Congress. And there are those like Lindsey Graham thinks, look, you've got to do something. You can't sit there and be totally helpless. You know, it was helpless stumbling giant, I think the phrase was back in the Vietnam War.

But on the other hand, if you go after you told the country I really want to buy -- the constitutional message.

COOPER: Right.

GERGEN: I'm going to go to the Congress and then going to go anyway, he's going to have it either way. It's going to be a bad thing. I think, I personally think that the worst possible outcome had the deal fall apart. He looks like he's been scampered by the Russians into negotiations that fell apart. He can't get a vote out of Congress and he sits there and does nothing.

COOPER: Right.

GERGEN: And at that point, you know, he's really been much worse damaged than he even is now. There is an argument, I must tell you, in fairness to the president. One veteran diplomat told me, look, this is a much better outcome than we expected. He stumbled into a resolution. He's not going to have to use the strike, which was a dumb idea to start with. We'll get most of -- maybe half or more of the chemical weapons and the Russians won't let him use the other half because they have this -- you know have him signing on.

So we'll come out of this. Assad would still be in power but then you have to wait and see. That's the best case. And Fareed Zakaria, by the way, has argued that possibility. I think it's a much bleaker view --


COOPER: Murkier than that.

GERGEN: I think because he's dealing with -- you know, usually American presidents in that past had to deal with one enemy on the table, this time he's got to deal with two, and most of the international community thinks Assad is a butcher and Putin is a thug.

COOPER: Right.

David Kay, just briefly, we talked about this a little bit yesterday. Not even talking about destroying the weapons but just controlling the sites, cataloging them, getting the people on the ground. You said it could take as many as, say, 2,000 inspectors. But in terms of how many inspectors, qualified, credible inspectors, certified are actually available right now, how many are we talking about?

KAY: Well, there's -- even worldwide there is a far smaller number. Look, the way around this and it's actually one we've used before, used in Iraq, is you insist that the Syrians go in and do the heavy lifting of counting, moving the chemical weapons around and you as inspectors stand a little bit back in protective gear, I hope, and you observe that. You use their manpower.

The Syrians -- if this deal is to work at all, the Syrians have to cooperate by providing the inspectors first with security and then helping them catalog and doing the destruction. Otherwise you're up in numbers that you simply can't sustain.

COOPER: All right. David Kay, appreciate your expertise as always. David Gergen as well. Thanks.

We, of course, are continuing to follow developments from the Jersey Shore. Hundreds of firefighter now on the scene, more are heading there battling the flame, dealing with high winds, hoping for rain.

Live pictures right there. We're going to check back with our correspondent on the scene just ahead.

Also tonight, a major development in the case of the Montana bride accused of pushing her new husband off a cliff to his death shortly after their wedding.

And the danger of synthetic designer drugs. You may not have heard about this. They're apparently flooding the country from China and other places with some deadly results and how easy it could be for your teen to buy then and use them.


COOPER: Welcome back. Crime and Punishment tonight, the Montana bride accused of murdering her new husband is out of jail. The judge ruled today that Jordan Lynn Graham is not a flight risk while waiting for her trial to begin. Graham and Cody Johnson were married a little more than a week when according to prosecutors they got in an argument on the night of July 7th while hiking in Glaciers National Park.

Prosecutors say in a fit of anger, Graham pushed Johnson off a cliff. His body was found a few days later. Kyung Lah is in Missoula, Montana tonight. So the bride, why was she released tonight? Is she no longer a suspect?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She is still a suspect. She's still a defendant, Anderson, but what the judge pointed out in his decision is that it's very rare to keep a defendant like this in custody before she faces trial. So he says, can you mitigate the risk of the community? He felt he could and that because she has no criminal history he did release her. That's why she walked out today.

COOPER: So are there conditions on her release?

LAH: Absolutely. She can't go out hiking or driving around by herself. She was essentially freed on her own recognizance, but she has to be with her parents. She is subject to electronic home monitoring. She can only leave the house to go to the doctor, psychiatrist. She has to have a mental health evaluation screening.

She also has to make sure -- the only other place she goes to is church. Given that, the judge says you can go ahead and be free. No bond was posted but, Anderson, this is not the end of the story. The U.S. Attorney's Office has filed a motion to stay this release, hoping to get her back into custody right away.

COOPER: I'm curious to know what her late husband's family and friends are saying about it. Have prosecutors laid out what evidence they actually have? Because I know a lot of friends and family kind of bad mouthed her and said she seemed suspicious even at the wedding. We didn't really like her, but in terms of actual evidence, how do they know she allegedly pushed this guy off a cliff?

LAH: Well, she said she did, and the last story she gave to investigators she says she took her hand to put it on his back and shoved him face-first off the cliff. She told that to investigators. They are really laying that heavy as far as evidence. But there is other evidence like trying to cover it up.

She opened up an e-mail account days after her husband of eight days went missing saying that another person said that he saw this made up person, he saw her husband dead. So prosecutors are going to start to build a case of cover up as well. We did reach out to other friends and family members, and you can imagine how they are feeling. There is a lot of outrage and there is a lot of hurt.

One person told me it's like a slap in the face. I spoke with a groomsman, Cameron Fredrickson. I want you to listen to what he told me. He said quote, "She openly admitted that she took someone else's life. She has done nothing but lie, you're going to let her go home with her family and relax like it's no big deal? Are you kidding?" You can hear the rage there, Anderson. They feel like justice so far has not moved fairly for them.

COOPER: OK, I'm just confused here. If she admitted to police that she pushed her then newlywed husband off a cliff, is she pleading not guilty?

LAH: No, she is -- she is presumed not guilty at this point. The charge is second degree murder, but she hasn't had the trial yet. She hasn't entered a plea in this. Her defense attorneys won't speak to CNN. They haven't spoken to anybody. The trial hasn't happened yet and because the trial hasn't happened yet, she is allowed to be home on home electronic monitoring.

COOPER: OK, well, fascinating. Kyung Lah, appreciate it. We'll continue to follow.

Let's get caught up on some of the other stories we're following. Isha is here with the 360 Bulletin -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a Georgia teenager has been sentenced to life without parole plus 105 years for murdering a toddler. He was convicted of shooting the child while trying to rob the boy's mother. Elkins was spared the death penalty because he was 17 at the time.

Casey Anthony may have to answer questions under oath about why she tried to cover up her daughter Caylee's disappearance back in 2008. No word from the attorney for a woman suing her for defamation. Casey Anthony was acquitted of Caylee's murder in 2011.

The CDC reports that 2013 is on track to be the worst year for measles in the U.S. in nearly two decades. Measles appear on the body in a rush of tiny red spots and most of the new cases diagnosed in people who were not vaccinated.

Anderson, the creator of Harry Potter is about to make a screen writing debut. J.K. Rowling will write the script for a movie about a Hogwart textbook "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them." It won't be a prequel or sequel to the Potter movies, but the first in a planned new series of films.

COOPER: I can hear the voices of children rejoicing around the world.

SESAY: And mine.

COOPER: And mine, too. I've seen them all. I must admit. That's going to be great, exciting. Isha, thanks very much.

SESAY: Very exciting.

COOPER: All right, I want to quickly show you the very hard work of a whole lot o firefighters right now on the Jersey Shore. The flames still consuming a big piece of the boardwalk on Seaside Park. I believe that's a live picture you're looking at, but I want to show you some of the pictures we've been looking at over the last couple hours before you get a sense of the scale of the fire, a whole eight block area.

We'll bring you a late status report from the scene ahead on 360 and we'll show you how easy it is for your teenager to buy synthetic drugs that deliver dangerous, even deadly highs where these drugs are coming from. We'll tell you and why so hard to stop the flood. We're keeping them honest.


COOPER: Welcome back. Keeping Them Honest tonight, a threat that really all parents need to know about, Colorado health officials are investigating three deaths to determine if they are tied to a batch of synthetic marijuana that sent close to 150 people to the hospital. It's not an isolated problem either.

Synthetic designer drugs are flooding into the United States mostly from China and they are being sold to younger and younger teenagers. The highs they deliver can be very, very potent, dangerously so. They caused psychotic reactions, kidney failures and suicides.

Law enforcement though is having a tough time just keeping ahead of the chemistry involved. Our investigative correspondent Drew Griffin recently went along in a major raid and was able to show just how easy it could be for your teen to buy new synthetic drugs. Here's his report.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The target convenient stores in Louisiana. Behind the counter, stuffed in backpacks, even a winter cap, these tiny sealed packets of what police say is synthetic marijuana selling for $20 to $30 a piece.

SHERIFF JERRY LARPENTER, TERREBONNE PARISH, LOUISIANA: Just another poison. People call it drugs, but I call it a poison.

GRIFFIN: What it is, is actual chemicals sprayed on plants and sold in packages that clearly say not for human consumption, but in reality, that's exactly what they are used for with often tragic results. According to the DEA, more than 200 new synthetic drugs have come into the U.S. in the last four years known as spice and bath salts.

Law enforcement says they are designed to mimic the highs of marijuana, cocaine and other controlled drugs. But unlike those controlled drugs, this stuff you can easily buy online on hundreds of sites on the internet that say it's legal. We did it.

(on camera): These are all 200 milligrams. It says novelty collectors' item. Black ultra and blueberry haze, collector's item, not for human consumption is what it says on this product description. I wonder why you would collect this stuff.

(voice-over): We sent these collectors' items off to a chemical lab to determine exactly what is inside them. Robin Smith already knows what they can do.

ROBIN SMITH, SON SMOKED SYNTHETIC DRUGS: He wanted to know if I could read his mind. He was having some hallucinations, hearing voices and that scared me. He told me that he had smoked spice and my reaction was that he had gotten it out of the kitchen cabinet.

GRIFFIN: Smith's son was 15 when he smoked spice, a chemical version of marijuana and tried to kill himself before seeking help. He has spent the last three years in and out of psychiatric hospitals.

SMITH: We had a normal functioning child, and the next day, we had a non-functioning child who did not want to -- who did not want to be here, who was hearing things and seeing things.

GRIFFIN: Over the last three years, more than 40 states and the federal government have passed laws outlawing certain chemicals used to make the synthetic drugs, but the manufacturers have stayed one step ahead of the law by constantly altering the chemical composition.

JOHN SCHERBENSKE, CHIEF, SYNTHETIC DRUGS AND CHEMICAL SECTION, DEA: Once they alter that chemical, it's no longer controlled substance.

GRIFFIN (on camera): So it's a game?


GRIFFIN: Every time, even the hint of a regulation comes for a particular chemical compound, they are already developing the next mode?

SCHERBENSKE: These chemical companies have a new chemical compound that is ready to take the place of the drugs that we control.

GRIFFIN: Is there any legitimate industrial purpose for those chemicals?

SCHERBENSKE: We are not aware of any legitimate industrial or medical use for these chemicals.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Which brings us to our online purchase of the synthetic drugs, which we sent to Cayman Chemical Lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan, it is here our packages of Afghan black ultra, ivory dove and ocean snow were tested and all of them contained dangerous chemicals sold according to Greg Endres with only one purpose.

GREG ENDRES, V.P. OF CHEMISTRY, CAYMAN CHEMICAL: We found a variety of substances including synthetic cannabinoids and in one case, a hallucinogenic tryptamine. We found enfenamine analogue, all which I would consider designer drugs.

GRIFFIN (on camera): How dangerous is this stuff from a chemical compound situation?

ENDRES: Quite dangerous. There is a variety of reported effects ranging from rapid or irregular heartbeats, hallucinogenic effects, seizures, psychosis, and there are several reported suicides.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Endres is vice president of chemistry here and works closely with law enforcement to try and help them find an infestation of chemically produced poison swarming the U.S. So when the package says it's a collector's item.

ENDRES: I don't believe it.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Afghan black ultra, which looks like marijuana linked most closely with a known and dangerous compound called XLR 11, a drug now made illegal. A schedule one drug in the same law enforcement category as heroin and the web site we bought it from says they don't sell banned substances. Cayman Chemicals Paul Kennedy ran the test to compare our purchases to the chemical makeup of known drugs and our afghan black ultra had something else, a surprise spike.

ENDRES: That is the tryptamine, the hallucinogen.

GRIFFIN: A hallucinogen added for an added high and the other packages, Ocean Snow, Ivy Dove ultra, Vanilla Sky, they all contained methiopropamine.

(on camera): It looks like a breath freshener is actually a variety you might say of crystal meth and in your computer methiopropamine.

(voice-over): So where are the drugs coming from? Mostly from labs in China where the chemicals are produced and exported in bulk containers to the U.S., once they get here, they are sprayed on plants or compounds and packaged and sold online and in places like that convenience store in Louisiana, just one site over 35 states part of a massive crack down by the DEA and local law enforcement. The results, 172 arrests and more than 20,000 pounds of synthetic drugs seized.


COOPER: So Drew, in your report you said most of the chemicals are coming from China. Why can't they be stopped?

GRIFFIN: It's tough, Anderson. According to the DEA, they are smuggled into the U.S. in bulk, sometimes called research chemicals. Everybody I talk to say there is no industrial use for this stuff. The DEA says the United States is in dialogue with the Chinese government to try and stop the flow of these chemicals but obviously, you know, while they talk these poisons continue to arrive.

COOPER: And they are getting sold as collectors' items or in packages that say not for human consumption, right?

GRIFFIN: Yes, it does appear to be a dangerous joke. You saw how easy it was for us to purchase this stuff. Quite frankly, I don't think it can be stopped, Anderson, which is why parents especially need to be aware of these things. This stuff is not legal, more importantly it's not safe and there's absolutely no government controls of what is inside these packages. They call it synthetic pot. It's not pot. It's just chemicals.

COOPER: Drew, thanks for the reporting.

Up next, we're going to update the breaking news, a giant fire raging in the New Jersey shore across a six-block area. Look at those images. Upwards of 200 businesses damaged or destroyed in the boardwalk in Seaside Park, the latest ahead.


COOPER: An inferno raging tonight along a New Jersey boardwalk. It was battered by Superstorm Sandy less than a year ago, an update from the scene ahead.


COOPER: Want to quickly update our breaking story, that massive fire devastating the shops in the boardwalk in the town of Seaside Park on the Jersey Shore. Firefighters hundreds of them from all across the area are hard at work right now. Their job made tougher by gusting winds, blowing embers.

On the scene and on the phone with us is Seaside Park County Administrator Robert Martucci. Robert, thanks for joining us. What is the situation right now? What's the latest? ROBERT MARTUCCI, TOWN ADMINISTRATOR, SEASIDE PARK, NEW JERSEY (via telephone): Right now the structure fire basically started around Stockton by the ice cream shop and down to Lincoln. They took part of the boardwalk in Seaside Heights and created a fire break and right now try to contain it at Lincoln to hold it there. We have probably about four counties worth of fire departments in here right now trying to fight this blaze.

We're taking water from the bay. We're taking water from all the municipalities that surround us to fight this fire. It's right now something that they think will take 24 to 36 hours and the town of Seaside Park and Seaside Heights have declared a state of emergency to free up more assets to bring in here like state police and state apparatus to help the next 24 to 36 hours.

COOPER: Buildings are still burning. This thing is still out of control. This is not contained?

MARTUCCI: Absolutely. There are flames on the boardwalk right now with a fire apparatus pouring water on them right now.

COOPER: And --

MARTUCCI: This is going on now for probably about 2:15, about 2:15 is probably the first signs of smoke coming out of the ice cream shop on the corner.

COOPER: I was talking to the mayor earlier. A lot of these buildings are connected and that's why the fire spread so quickly? Is that correct?

MARTUCCI: Absolutely. A lot of them -- the boardwalk they are all connected and also sitting on the boardwalk and we had -- we had a wind that was basically blowing the presift (ph) wind and the wind goes under the boardwalk and the fuel for fire and coming under the boardwalk and feeding it and as it comes up, it's feeding the flame. It's a tough fire to fight.

COOPER: And it's heartbreaking knowing all this community has been through given Hurricane Sandy. Our best to you, Robert, thank you for talking to us and our best to all the firefighters trying to battle this thing. We'll continue to check on it throughout the evening. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back. That does it for this edition of 360. We'll see you again one hour from now at 10:00 p.m. Eastern for a brand new panel discussion show, "360 LATER." Hope you join us. In a few minutes you can catch the online chat at 9:15 Eastern. Log on 360. "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts now.